For most people they are under the impression that they should go hard in every session. They get fixed on certain paces all the time because they think they will not improve and therefore neglect the easy days and even go too hard on easy days as a result. The most common thought is “if I train hard and fast I will get faster” but that is not the case and you need to be clever in your training and like many of the pros they train in zone 2 to get faster. We all know that well known saying “go slow to get fast”. If you keep training hard you with keep having bad training days and likely spend a long time each year on the sidelines.
What is zone 2 training? Zone 2 is steady training just coming above the easy zone, It’s not moderate or anything above. The main benefit form zone 2 heart rate or zone 2 power is that it builds aerobic base and endurance. By Improving aerobic capacity this improves your ability to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time. Of course you still need to do the higher intensity efforts but zone 2 is the basis and foundation from which to begin to build your faster pace. If you have a strong aerobic capacity it will also allow you to recover quicker between those higher intensity efforts. For example, with a better aerobic fitness, you will be able to perform intervals with a shorter rest in between and hit pace stronger.
Why is Zone 2 training important?
One of my coaches Mark Shepherd is very critical on me for my training and the majority of his training he gives me is all in zone 2. He stresses the importance of zone training every week. I also believe in this training; before Mark I went on studies on how to improve and the main finding was I was training too hard although I thought it was easy. I had my zones adjusted to my heart rate max and since that study in 2015, I have improved a lot from training in zone 2. So when Mark gave me my training I was no stranger to this. Of course lots of people think they are doing it right but I see it all the time on Strava and can tell it’s wrong. Zone 2 training should be a big bulk of your weekly training and for the benefits mentioned above it also leaves you feeling like you can go on for ever, fresh, recover and therefore really target your hard runs and not get fatigued, which of course will keep the injuries away. If the injuries stay away then to me that’s a major importance in any training, not only will you get consistent training which is the key, but if you get consistent training you are very likely to improve. If you keep over training and get injured you will just end up chasing your fitness and making excuses. With zone 2 training you should be able to maintain a conversation very easily; I always like to focus on form as it’s easy to do whilst at this heart rate. What is there not to like about it? It’s a well-known method and your body needs to repair – you just cannot keep breaking your body down with hard training. I always point out to people even the best marathon runners in the world run slow miles.
How to work it out?
Firstly you need a watch and a heart rate monitor. You need to know your heart rate max and once you have that you can put your heart rate in many calculators online HERE or watch my YouTube videos HERE and you will get your zones from there. You do need to make sure the HR max is right, you can do tests like: 5k Time Trial, FTP test, coopers test, VO2 Max lab test and so on etc or even use a recent race result. Do not use your watch automatic/present zones as 9/10 times they are wrong zones. Once you know your heart rate max you can get your zones. Don’t go by pace or mileage, I just go by time and follow the zone strictly. By sticking to lower heart rates, over time you will find that you are likely to increase your pace at the same heart rate output. This is due to increased aerobic efficiency – yes I had to walk up hills to start off with but that was a way my body was telling me I am pushing too hard. You may have to walk but in time it improves. When you become more efficient in time you will then be able to do more training hours at a lower heart rate. Check out old blog HERE about if Heart Rate training is worth it.
Why do people ignore this method?
People are simply not patient and they expect instant results and that won’t happen overnight. At least 2/4 of my runs a week are in zone 2. When I first did this training it was a few weeks before I saw my pace improve, but found I could train more and on the hard sessions go harder. Over the years the pace is sometimes at a pace which I was doing back in 2015 too hard. I have improved a lot from this but it takes times, it could be weeks or months to see improvement but you have to keep at it and your see the benefits. Stick with it and you will make improvements and of course with anything you will struggle to get quick results so why break your body and get injured when you can train smart?
My conclusion is it is a big topic and this is a quick simple blog about this; I have written many in depth blogs in the past and YouTube Videos so check them out. I train like this, my athletes do and I have many friends doing this training who have all gone to do well whether it’s a PB or a medal. I believe in this and when I look back over the years I have improved so much and continue to improve. The medals I have won are due to training smart and not over training. Thanks for reading and what do you think about zone 2 training?
Check out my YOUTUTBE video on this subject HERE